WASHINGTON/JERUSALEM Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he hoped the United States would continue to reject any move towards a U.N. Security Council resolution backing Palestinian statehood.
"A Security Council Resolution to pressure Israel would further harden Palestinian positions and thereby could actually kill the chances of peace for many, many years," he told a meeting of the powerful American-Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbying group.
Netanyahu's speech returned the conference focus to policy after a turn to partisan politics on Monday when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump took to the stage and denounced President Barack Obama, a Democrat.
AIPAC's leaders distanced the group from his remarks before Netanyahu's speech on Tuesday.
Via satellite from Israel, Netanyahu also said he was ready to begin talks "immediately, without preconditions" for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but insisted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas did not back the idea.
"Peace won't come through U.N. Security Council resolutions but through direct negotiations between the parties. The best formula for achieving peace remains two states for two peoples in which a demilitarized Palestinian state finally recognizes the Jewish state," Netanyahu said.
France failed last year to get Washington on board to push for a Security Council resolution to set parameters for Israeli-Palestinian talks and set a final deadline for a deal.
Most of the remaining 2016 U.S. presidential candidates addressed AIPAC's 18,000-strong convention this week.
The group's leaders took the stage shortly before Netanyahu's address to denounce the partisan comments by the Republican front-runner Trump.
Trump said Obama "may be the worst thing that ever happened to Israel," to some applause from the AIPAC crowd. Netanyahu, who has close ties to U.S. Republicans, has had a strained relationship with Obama.
"We say, unequivocally, that we do not countenance ad hominem attacks and we take great offense against those that are levied against the president of the United States of America from our stage," AIPAC President Lillian Pinkus said.
Thousands of AIPAC members are visiting Congress on Tuesday to speak to Republicans and Obama's fellow Democrats, arguing for the continuation of billions of dollars in military aid for Israel and renewed sanctions against Iran.
In his speech to AIPAC on Sunday, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden took a somewhat tougher line than many U.S. politicians. He called on Netanyahu's government to demonstrate its commitment to a two-state solution and said settlement expansion weakened prospects for peace. [L2N16T03L]
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and James Dalgleish)